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Maryland Hotels Reap Benefit From Nearby Inauguration Festivities

By I-Wei Chang
Capital News Service
Friday, Jan. 14, 2005

WASHINGTON - President Bush's second inauguration is not expected to create the skyrocketing demand for hotel rooms of his first swearing-in four years ago, but Maryland hotels said they still expect better-than-normal business this week.

That is particularly welcome at what is traditionally a slow month for area hotels.

Hotels are "seeing more business, more rooms being reserved and more activities planned," said Matthew Neitzey, executive director of the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Prince George's County.

"Hotels and restaurants do much better (in inaugural years) than the other three years," Neitzey said. "We wish it happened more often."

Unlike four years ago, however, when the White House went from Democratic to Republican hands, a reservations worker said there were still rooms available for Bush's second inauguration.

"Four years ago, with a new administration coming in, you couldn't get a room," said Nina Quesinberry, reservations manager at Capitol Reservations. "But being a second-term president, everyone is pretty much in place.

"Capitol Hill and up-scale hotels in Washington are sold out, but there are still hotels in the city that have rooms and in the surrounding areas," she said.

In neighboring areas like Maryland, hotels stand to benefit.

"There's a definite difference in occupancy in the inauguration month," said Kelly Groff, executive director of the Conference and Visitors Bureau of Montgomery County.

Downtown Bethesda hotels benefit the most because the area borders the District, Groff said.

At the Holiday Inn in Chevy Chase, for example, reservations for rooms have "filled to capacity and booked solid a month ago," said Cornel Mohoreanu, the general manager. He called his hotel the "Washington hotel with a Maryland address."

"Sometimes they want to stay away from crowds and the traffic of D.C.," Mohoreanu said.

Mary Jo McCulloch, president of Maryland Hotel and Lodging Association, said the presidential festivities "will bring in additional room nights before and during the inauguration." She said that out-of-towners in the past have taken advantage of Metro, staying in the suburbs but using the subway to get to events in the city.

Many hotels in Montgomery and Prince George's counties are located near Metro stations and offer free shuttle services to the subway.

That is the case for the Greenbelt Marriott, but officials there were still looking last week to bring in more business.

"We haven't drawn as many (visitors) as we had hoped," said Jeff Plamondon, general manager of the Greenbelt Marriott.

While hotel rooms are sold out for the beginning of this week, Thursday and Friday reservations have only reached 80-percent occupancy, he said Wednesday. But Plamondon remained optimistic.

"We are still a week out," he said. "There may be a flurry between now and next Thursday."

Copyright 2005 University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism

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